Posted in TV Stuff

Stuff I have enjoyed: Picard

I go to work, it’s fairly negative right now. I put on the TV, it’s fairly negative right now. I go out, oh wait no I don’t.

The point is, there’s a lot of reasons to not be cheerful, so I want to do some about positive stuff.

I was a kid in the 80’s. That was a bit of a magical time, new technology appearing all the time, some of the best kids TV in years, some of the best toys that went with it and a lot of my childhood was happy. One positive was that there was a guy who drove round the streets where I lived renting video tapes. I watched a lot of films during that era, but one thing I also did was watch my first few episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Now, with the clarity of hindsight, I can see the flaws of that show, it’s re-tread scripts and wonky special effects of the early seasons, but to a 12 year old boy, this was magical. So despite the ground-breaking nature of the original series, or that Deep Space Nine is hands down a better show, TNG has a special place in my heart. When it ended, I was sad, but then we got the 4 films of lets say varying quality, but by the end of Star Trek: Nemesis I was glad to say goodbye. But I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t curious about what happened to the crew of the USS Enterprise E and it’s Captain, Jean-Luc Picard.

Clearly, I was not alone.

Amazon released the series earlier this year with a 11 episode run set in the timeline of the Next Generation, but two decades after Nemesis and years after the fall of Romulus depicted in the J.J. Abrams helmed Stark Trek XI. I was apprehensive, there’s been a lot of revival/reunion shows recently. This is often a sign of a lack of new ideas and a slavish devotion to our beloved shows of the past. I was less than keen on the overall idea.

I watched it of course, because I am undeniably a Trekkie.

The show first aired 24 January 2020 and the cast was:-

Patrick Stewart – Jean-Luc Picard

Allison Pill – Dr. Agnes Jurati

Isa Briones – Dahj/Soji

Michelle Hurd – Raffi Muskier

Santiago Cabera – Capt. Cristobal Rios

Harry Treadaway – Narek

Evan Evagora – Elnor

Jeri Ryan – 7 of 9

….and more besides.

This show is the story of Jean-Luc living in isolation on his family’s vineyard. He’s retreated there after storming out of Starfleet years earlier. He’s embittered and angry but is drawn back into things when a woman is on the run and somehow knows he can help. After many years, there’s a mission. He gets a crew, hires a ship and heads out into space. It doesn’t matter that he has a brain anomaly that will most likely kill him soon, someone needs to be saved.

The story was tightly plotted, the dialogue was fairly witty and the tone matched the time it was show, which was pretty bleak, but it’s the performances that make this work and Patrick Stewart is still as strong a presence as he ever was when he first put on the uniform. It played with themes of regret, of seeing something you believed in fail and how anger costs you. One thing it didn’t do is play to the myth of the old hero, who is as strong as he was 30 years ago. This Picard is an old man, struggling to keep up with the younger cast and battling health issues. Then we have the whole anti-artificial intelligence plot and the mystery of Data’s legacy and there’s a really exciting and interesting story going on here. The effects were good, fantastic actions scenes and even a few easter-eggs for the long time fans. I watched it weekly, downloading each episode as it dropped.

If you have ever enjoyed Star Trek it’s worth checking out, but if you haven’t it’s still a very well made TV show with an excellent cast and was a reminder that this franchise can have more than one type of show and work. If they left it at this one, I’d be perfectly content, but am also glad that they haven’t and look forward to whatever they do next and that isn’t a small thing in a TV landscape that I am less and less invested in. It was also sort of adorable that his dog was called ‘Number One.’

Take care of yourself everyone.

 

 

 

 

Posted in TV Stuff

For the Geek in me 2019 was awesome: TV

I cannot describe 2019 as anything other than a challenging year. There have been a few ups and a good number of downs. But at this time of year, I want to look back at things I liked, so here we go. Now it was a year in TV that was either stuff that started last year, or non-genre TV that doesn’t qualify here, so it was difficult to find 5 new TV shows that deserved to be commented on, but I managed to find the 5.

Titans

This was a show that I was able to catch on Netflix, after it launched on DC’s streaming app. It starred a mostly unknown cast and had a tone that was at odds with every iteration of the Teen Titans that  I can remember and its initial online publicity was less than encouraging. So I gave it a go and wrote about it here.

Swamp Thing

This was a sadly single season of a well-made show that also debuted on DC’s streaming service, yet got to me through Amazon Prime. This was a bit of a horror/fantasy take on a DC comics series. The show had a strong cast and also the guy from the Sharknado films. Storylines and tones were ripped from Alan Moore stories in the 1980s. One of the episode titles is “The Anatomy Lesson” and it’s loyal to the spirit of Saga of the Swamp Thing, without actually following it too closely. It did only have the one season, but when you look at it, you can be seen as Firefly was, with only one season, it is ideal just as it is. It’s not the easiest of sits, but it was well worth sticking with.

Umbrella Academy

This one sort of took me by surprise. I had heard the name Umbrella Academy before, but it wasn’t a comic series that I had read, so I had to take the series on its own merits and not how it was adapted. So as a series in and of itself? It was very good, a very strong cast and a solid story. Several babies are born under supernatural circumstances, a wealthy eccentric adopts them to create his own superhero team/family and we see how badly that went years later after he dies. We then have ghosts, time travel and a hidden threat that is set to cause the apocalypse. This is a bonkers show and leans into it, whilst keeping you interested in its plot. I don’t know who this was aimed at, but it definitely got me at the right time. Apparentley a second season is on its way.

Watchmen

I love the original comic Watchmen. I have read the series annually for over 25 years. My most recent copy has been signed by the artist Dave Gibbons and its place as one of the greatest comics of all time is not without merit. So as a result, I have been hesitant to approve of any sequels and continuations, since it works as a 12 issue story and should be left as such. DC can’t do that though, can they? So we got Before Watchmen stories a few years ago. I stayed away. Then the disaster that was the New 52 gave way to Rebirth and then we got the first hint that Watchmen was going to be connected to this new era of DC Comics. I’ll write about that in comics, but that mining of previous successes led to the Watchmen comic getting a TV series sequel. It was from the comics not from the film, so used the comic’s original ending. We get to see the world 34 years after those events, but we didn’t see that at first, we got a look at Tulsa, Oklahoma. We saw a police force made up of mystery men detectives and masked uniformed officers. We met Angela ‘Sister Night’ Abar as she investigated the death of her boss and how that was connected to the Minute Men of the 1940s and Ozymandius and his plot. The stories seemed meandering at times and it was quite aggravating to new viewers who didn’t have the conext of the Watchmen stories, but as with the comic, if you stuck with it, it was a gripping show that kept you interested, even though you knew that it wasn’t going to end well.

War of the Worlds

This is a bit of a cheat considering that I haven’t finished watching it, but this is a modern made period-specific retelling of H.G. Wells’ Victorian novel. It is well shot, had a great cast and sells the horror and confusion that comes from that. It is a TV show that I have been looking foward to for a while and I will be watching the rest of it before too long.

There’s also been a lot of box sets and continuing series and I have started the new year laughing and enjoying the TV that I watch.

Next Time: Movies

Posted in Comics n Stuff, TV Stuff

Champions of S.H.I.E.L.D Part 6

There are spoilers, since the series only finished here last month.

>

>

>

>

>

>

>

>

>

>

>

>

>

>

Agent Melinda May – Ming Na Wen

Agent Leopold Fitz – Ian De Caestecker

Agent Gemma Simmons– Elizabeth Henstridge

Daisy ‘Quake’ Johnson – Chloe Bennett

Alfonso ‘Mack’ MacKenzie –Henry Simmons

Elena ‘Yo-Yo’ Rodrigues – Natalia Cordova

Zeke Shaw – Jeff Ward

Recurring Cast:

Sarge – Clark Gregg

Agent Piper – Joel Stoffer

Agent Davis – Joel Stoffer

Enoch – Joel Stoffer

Dr Marcus Benson – Barry Shabaka Henley

Izel – Karolina Wydra

Overview: Having lost their legitimacy, their headquarters, some of the mid-level cast and their close connection to the MCU, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. lost one more thing by the end of season 5, Philip J Coulson. This show has really had two stories, either the love story of FitzSimmons or the second life of Agent Coulson. Now he was gone, ending his life in the Magical Place of Tahiti in with Melinda May at his side, it was a good ending to the story but his absence became a character very much as he had been when he was there.

Initial Status Quo The team have lost Coulson and the Leopold Fitz who came back from the future. A year has passed, in which Gemma Simmons, Daisy (Quake) Johnson along with Agents Piper and Davis are in deep space searching for the Fitz who hadn’t yet arrived in the future. Back on Earth, Alphonso McKenzie has taken the reins as director and is rebuilding S.H.I.E.L.D to face whatever new threats are coming.

Twist: They soon learn that this threat has a familiar face. A band of interstellar travellers are jumping from world to world, causing havoc as they go. Robbery and murder are part of their MO and. Their leader Sarge is an exact doppelganger of Philip Coulson.

Twist 2: Fitz is out of his stasis pod and he and Enoch the Chronicon are trying to get back to the post-Earth future. It is not going well. Also the Chronicons are hunting Enoch and Fitz after their homeworld is destroyed by the threat Sarge and his band of rogues are pursuing. That threat, Izel collides with Fitz and Simmons when they are reunited and after all the plots collide there are more secrets to be revealed.

Overall: This was a shorter season, which cut a lot of the fat off the season. It also made me feel that I had missed episodes. The year long time jump left a lot more questions than the show answered. Splitting the team papered over the cracks of the thin story and put the focus on character, much to the series’ benefit. We got to see Mack struggle with leadership as he cuts himself off from YoYo, who looks elsewhere, only to lose that. We saw FitzSimmons reunited once again, but still their happy ever after just out of reach.  The story of Sarge took many turns and he went from villain to reluctant hero and back again, a world ending threat and with the day saved, everything is thrown up in the air as the team’s status is changed again and we end up back in time and the return of a familiar face.

Stand out Episodes:

Missing Pieces: A rebuilding team, shattered by recent losses come face to face with a doppleganger of their fallen leader as several of their new members fall before this new threat.

The Other Thing: We learn more about Sarge and his team as things in space get more tense.

Inescapable: FitzSimmons under the microscope as their relationship faces it’s biggest challenge, themselves. They battle their own issues and their own dark sides to find one another again.

New Life: Izel and Sarge, surprise guests and a cliff-hanger ending bring this shorter season to a satisfying close.

Next Time: The final season a look into the past and the future.

 

Posted in Comics n Stuff, TV Stuff

Modern Fandom: Or, it’s really not that bad

I like liking things, I enjoy being caught up in a tv show, comic or film and enjoy talking about such things with like minded folks, or even ones that disagree with me, provided we at least try to see the other person’s viewpoint, or can agree that our tastes and opinions can differ. As I look at pop culture websites, youtube and facebook I can see that I am somewhat in the minority, or certainly the less vocal percentage of internet fandom. It may be an age thing, I have been around long enough to see much of the reasons for the vitriol before and am no stranger to long-standing properties undergoing changes that I either didn’t understand, nor approved of. I’m sort of tired of it now, because despite all the changes and things that aren’t as I remember them being, it really doesn’t matter.

Now hear me out, I don’t mean that these aren’t things to care about in the ‘more important things in life’ way. There’s validity to that, but I am a man wearing an X-Men tee shirt and have Marvel comics characters tattooed on both of my arms, so lets not be of the misunderstanding that I have my life in the correct perspective. What I mean is, so what if it has changed? Is that so bad?

Whilst I have seen this happen a few times in comics (a female Thor, a Captain America of colour and an Iron Man who is also a teenage girl of colour) it has never felt like any kind of betrayal or anything like that. Captain America has been replaced several times and my objection to the Sam Wilson era, was that Falcon was very much his own man as a character and sticking him with the name seemed to diminish Sam Wilson, rather than affect how I saw the name of Captain America. I read some of his appearances, saw that they were going for a man trying to live up to a legend, but believing he never would was a valid story to tell and I found it somewhat interesting. Thor as a woman, split the character and showed us a Thor who wasn’t worthy and another for whom wielding the hammer could be a death sentence, these were good ideas and led to interesting stories. A teenage girl in the Iron Man armour led to interesting things either and we got away with having the original Iron Man in that story well, so what did we lose? It seemed to me that people arguing these things, seemed bothered about something beyond their preferred characters not being the ones under the familiar name.

When it came to movies and tv this seemed to get worse. Earlier this year, I watched Captain Marvel, which was the film that introduced the Carol Danvers version of that character ( the 5th Captain Marvel I believe) and there was so much anger over the character, the actress playing her and what seemed to be her insertion into the comics and the MCU as a major character. There is a couple of things to look at here, I am a fan of the other versions too. I liked the Mar Vell version when he was a spy for the Kree who fell in love with the Earth and out of love with the Kree. I liked the Genis Vell version too (mostly for Peter David’s writing) and I hold them dear to my heart, but Carol Danvers was a character going back to the early Mar Vell stories and had been a character under her own name as well as Ms Marvel, Binary, Warbird and Ms Marvel again, before getting the name Captain Marvel which wasn’t being used at the time. I read some of the character’s comics and they weren’t for me. But here’s the thing, it doesn’t have to be. I read a recent mini-series which did a bit of a secret origins take on Carol and that was actually very good and other appearances have been good too. The character isn’t for me, nor does it have to be. She was in a movie, which was slammed by some for being too feminist. That does take me to a quote I like from the author Salman Rushdie “Of course I am a feminist the other option is a$$hole.” I may not have read much of what he has written, but I like what he said there. Is feminist a bad thing now? Being raised by a strong woman, being married to one and working with a couple, I never thought of women as anything other than as good as a man at anything they do. But I watched the film and when the character of Mar Vell was gender swapped to be a female, posing as a human called  Wendy Lawson I didn’t think of it as a betrayal, but more of an interesting plot choice that I didn’t think of. If you change any of the cast to male, the story doesn’t really change too much and if we can be honest, haven’t enough men had this movie anyway? 22 MCU movies and only 1 is female led? That’s a pretty poor showing don’t you think? Whilst it’s not one of the MCU’s best, it is a solid midcarder of a film that was both fun and accessible. I was glad to see it come out and will no doubt pick up the Blu Ray before too long.

That came on the heels of last year’s recasting of the BBC TV series/character Doctor Who. So many people complained about the casting and overall direction of the show that I seriously wondered what they could have seen that would make reasonable people feel this way. Was it her well received performance on Broadchurch? Or her appearance in the apparently underappreciated Attack the Block? Was it that the role was just handed to her? Oh wait, it wasn’t. As far as I was aware, she hadn’t actually been seen on the show yet. So what was all the anger about? When it finally was on the air, I watched it.

It was enjoyable, good performances, action and writing and whilst not as good as Matt Smith’s the 11th hour, it was better than the rest of the new Doctor Who actor’s first episodes. The rest of the season was okay, some good episodes, some not so good, but isn’t that always the way? What about the quality had changed that so many people could be so down on it? The retorts of ‘SJW’ and ‘get your politics out of my …..’ etc etc as well as the usual ‘ruined my childhood’ rubbish came up. But here’s the thing, most heroic fiction has an element of social justice in it. It is built into the idea. The politics argument is also spurious as most good fiction and good science fiction in particular has politics or some message built into it. Doctor Who has had a go at taxation, prejudice, war, totalitarianism and a dozen other things besides going back as far as it’s pro-enviroment themes during Inferno over 40 years ago. It’s not the actor you are objecting too (no one could accuse Slyvester McCoy or Colin Baker of being master thespians) nor the writing (I watched Fear Her and 42 as well you know), so really what is it that you are complaining about?

This post (rambling as it may be) came about because our puppy isn’t always sleeping through the night and I have had a few sleepless nights as a result. After a couple of occasions of channel surfing, I decided the next time I would put a film on and the newest film I had bought, that I was able to watch at 4am was Star Wars episde XIII, the Last Jedi. Wow, did that film get a lot of unnecessary bile as well. But I watched it and it was alright. It was better then most of the prequels, better than the last one and I will be honest, I didn’t know what the fuss was all about. The grief that the cast has to deal with was ridiculous (one of the cast was chased off twitter) and for what? A film that many people didn’t like, but many people did? It was okay, there was a lot of good moments in the film and it pointed towards an interesting episode IX, yet once more we have the not my star wars people, the cries for re-edits and complaints of SJW agendas again (so we didn’t think that a film about a rebellion against a fascist empire wasn’t going to have any of that?) and discussion of the film seems to have been  shoved aside in favour of shouting about what the film means and how the fans have been betrayed by this newest installment. I may write more about this film as I have both positives and negatives about it, but it seemed to crystalise what I had been thinking.

The point of this incredibly long diatribe is this. If you do not like it, that is okay. The world is full of things that I do not like, but others do. The world also has stuff that I like and others do not. That is okay. Not everything is for me. I am quite fortunate, being a straight white man, quite a lot of fiction is for me. But I have also enjoyed stuff that shines a light on other points of view and perspectives. Many of my favourite shows have female leads, or leads of colour and not seeing myself reflected in this fiction is not a problem to me. But having that broader range of appeal and greater representation does mean something to other people. If I can see myself reflected on TV or film in a leading role, why shouldn’t everyone else. If a lot of TV and film and comics is aimed to me as a demographic, why doesn’t every demographic have the same thing? If something is for me, or if I can enjoy it, fantastic. If it isn’t, well that’s okay too, because it doesn’t have to be and it will be for someone else. If The Last Jedi isn’t my star wars, well that’s okay, because there’s another 7 or 8 movies that might be, no point getting all aireated about it. My not liking it, doesn’t make it wrong, any more than my liking it makes it right. If the new stuff doesn’t do it for me, that’s not a betrayal of the fans or the ruining of my childhood, that’s okay, because I have a lot of stuff that does do it for me and more seems to be coming up all the time. You can reboot, recast or remake whatever you want, it doesn’t ruin my childhood, because I had those things then and in terms of popular culture, my childhood was pretty damn good. Most of the things that I enjoyed as a kid or available now still. I can watch 80’s cartoons, 70’s movies, 90’s tv shows and so on and share them with those I love and every now and again, something new will appear that will impress and/or entertain me.

If you like something, enjoy it, share it and be thankful for it, because it does enhance your day. If you don’t, what you can do is, walk away. If you don’t like the new Doctor Who, don’t watch it, millions of others will and the older stuff is still there for you to enjoy. If you don’t like the way the new Star Wars films are being done, then vote with your £ or $ and don’t go to see it. You are not harmed by these things and this bile and vitriol is neither helping you, nor changing anything. Several times I have walked away from stuff that I felt wasn’t for me, sometimes I go back, sometimes I don’t and in neither instance is anyone else affected.

If watching a female Doctor Who doesn’t do it for you, don’t watch it. The complaining, the hate-watching isn’t necessary. Some little girl might watch that and be inspired, the way that you were once inspired when they were a he. The geeks of the world like to still see ourselves as the keepers of these myths, these fragile things that need to be protected from the newcomers, but weren’t not. These stories belong to all of us and maybe you need to be a little less precious about them. The greatest stories grow and change and aren’t the same decade to decade. We need to let new people enjoy them, new people create them, so they are sustained and continue to enhance all of our lives.

Wow, kind of went on a long rant there, didn’t I?

Posted in TV Stuff

And there came a day, unlike any other

In 2012, Marvel released the Avengers movie, rounding off their initial movie slate and cementing the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This was unprecedented and had several effects, one of the ones that was less positive was their animated output. Avengers Assemble was the Disney made animated series that seemed to carry on from the movie, there was another for Spider-Man, one for the Hulk and eventually one for the Guardians of the Galaxy and I didn’t like them. Well in defence of the Guardians show, I never actually watched it, so that might be excellent. The one that put me off the most was the Avengers Assemble, it’s bland animation, slavish devotion to the movie and absence of both characterisation and genuine fun got me to switch off. I was quite sanguine about it really, I realised that I wasn’t the target audience and just moved on, perfectly happy with it existing, since I didn’t need to watch it. But you see, I have a son. SuperSam watched an episode during a Saturday morning cartoon watch and he enjoyed the episode of the 3rd or 4th season, which had the sub-title Secret Wars and I, for the first time in years had to sit through a two part episode.

It had not improved, despite introducing the Vision and Kamala ‘Ms Marvel’ Khan. I asked to not watch any more, declaring to my son that there was a better version of the Avengers than this drivel. He did not believe me, fortunately a few years ago I got a copy of the series in question in Chester. This series was Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, I promised that if he gave it a try and didn’t like it, then I would sit through more Avengers Assemble.

Avengers: EMH was released in 2010 and ran for 2 seasons, being cancelled to make way for Avenger Assemble. It had a modest 52 episode run, telling a larger story, broken down into single episodes, mini-arcs and two parters and over a period of 4 weeks, we watched every single episode.

The Cast:

Iron Man/ Tony Stark –  Eric Loomis

Captain America/Steve Rogers–  Brian Bloom

Wasp/Janet Van Dyne  –  Collen O’Shaunessy

Thor  –  Rick Wasserman

The Hulk  –  Fred Tatasciore

Dr Henry Pym/Ant Man/Giant Man/Yellowjacket – Wally Wingert

T’Challa, the Black Panther – James Mathis III

Hawkeye/Clint Barton – Chris Cox

The Premise:

In a world, where there are super-heroes and villains there is a breakout at S.H.I.E.L.D’s super-prisons which frees dozens of super-villains. This disaster brings together fledgling heroes Ant Man, the Wasp, Iron Man, Thor and the fugitive Hulk to try to save the day. One of the villains, known as Graviton nearly destroys the city, before this group stops him. With other villains on the loose, this group join together to avenge the wrongs these villains do.

The Show:

Whilst a modern show, this was a love letter to the history of the Avengers and used both classic characters (including Captain America, Vision, Carol Danvers’ Ms Marvel and Hawkeye) as well as adapting several classic Avengers stories, from Secret Invasion, to the Korvac Saga and even the Kree/Skrull War. There was all the villains you could have wanted, like Doctor Doom, Ultron, Kang, the Masters of Evil and Loki as well as other non-Avengers villains, including such ‘greats’ as the Absorbing Man, the Leader, the Wrecking Crew and the U-Foes. Even non-Avengers stories were present, the best one being ‘The Ballad of Beta Ray Bill’.

This was full of guest stars and easter eggs, including Warriors Three, Abigal Brand: Agent of S.W.O.R.D. and the X-Plain the X-Men fan in me was thrilled to see Super-Doctor-Astronaut Peter Corbeau. Power Man and Iron Fist, the Fantastic Four, even Wolverine popped up from time to time. This was show about the Marvel Universe, that whilst recogniseable as characters from the MCU, very much felt like it’s own thing, the closest analagous show would be Justice League Unlimited. The stakes rose with each story, the next to last being 8 of the Avengers vs the entire Kree Empire, but the show ended on a high with every Avenger and guest star facing off against GALACTUS.

This wasn’t a perfect show and there were more than a couple of clunkers, but this was lovingly made, well voice-acted and never outstayed it’s welcome. It ended too soon perhaps, but what we did get was a satisfying limited series that entertained me again for the second time and enthralling my 8 year old son (SuperSam) who more than once tried to risk being late for school to watch one in the mornings. We weren’t late for school, but got through this show in less than a month. When we were done, I asked if it was better than Avengers  Assemble, which he couldn’t agree with more.

This show is fun, faithful to the comics (but you don’t need much knowledge of them) and the boxset of all 52 episodes isn’t too hard to find, nor too expensive and if you have ever enjoyed Marvel’s animated products, certainly worth your while checking out.

Notes from SuperSam: I liked the show because of cool stuff like the Purple Man making Iron Man rule the world and them teleporting GALACTUS in the last episode, which I watched this morning.

This re-watch project has been a fun and interesting success and needs a sequel. Next time, Wolverine and the X-Men.

Ttfn Internet People, see you next time

Posted in TV Stuff

5 Alternate Takes

Much like my recent look at format busting episodes it occurred to me that another manner of busting out of the same show was the alternate reality episode. This is where you can have the same cast and a similar enough premise, but you also have the opportunity to tell different stories, have different stakes and take risks without costing the main series anything.

It’s unique to fiction that idea of what if, we can’t re-write history, or our memories, but if it’s a story, then you can do whatever you like. One of the best early examples of this was the classic Star Trek episode titled Mirror Mirror, also known as the one with evil Spock with a beard. This was an episode where Kirk, McCoy, Uhura and Scotty are beamed up from a planet during some kind of storm, they rematerialise on another Enterprise in another universe, a more savage and merciless universe. This became such a trope that half a dozen other episodes in this place followed, Deep Space 9 had annual looks into the mirror universe and Enterprise did a two-parter set there as well, a highpoint for a series I really had little time for. So when I was thinking about this, I decided to have no Trek at all in this list and to be honest, it left me with more interesting variations on this idea.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Wish

Season 3: First aired Dec 8 1998.

During the final High School season of Buffy was this little gem. After being betrayed by her boyfriend and humiliated by her friends Cordelia makes a wish that Buffy had never come to Sunnydale in front of new girl Anya, only Anya is actually the vengeance demon Anyanka who makes her wish come true, creating a parallel world where two years earlier the Vampire king known as the Master rose and conquered the town. The humans hide at home and during the night the vampires (including main characters Xander and Willow) do whatever they want. Everyone is on top form with Xander being funny, but still threatening and Willow going from goofy nerd to undead bombshell. The whole thing is a masterclass on how to do alternate takes, with no character the same as you know them, but all can be recognised. The vampire Willow eventually made a bit of a comeback and it was a standout episode of that season in my opinion and it was a season full of great episodes.

Doctor Who: Turn Left

Season 4: First aired June 21 2008

 

A similar type of story to Wish, in that a supporting character makes a choice and that choice alters the main character’s story. Coerced into altering her own history Donna Noble prevents herself meeting her fiance and as a result changes the events of the Doctor Who story the Runaway Bride. This has the effect of the Doctor not being stopped at the end of that story, which means he dies and is unable to regenerate. So he’s unable to prevent the destruction of London by the space ship Titanic, or the Sontaran plan to poison the world’s cars, he’s equally unable to save the London hospital that Martha Jones works at. In a world growing more and more bleak, Donna then has to sacrifice herself, to put the timeline right. It’s a facinating look at what one person’s presence or absence can mean to our lives as well as what happens when the hero doesn’t save the day.

Grey’s Anatomy: If/When

Season 8 First aired Feb 2 2012

Other than the parallel earth method, the most common used is the butterfly effect method, where a simple change spins events out in very different ways. In this episode, we get Meredith Grey imagining a world where her mother kept her health and stayed with Richard Webber and raised her together. Here we see all the cast, with their lives changed, there’re are different relationships, different friendships and yet somehow certain patterns reassert. It’s a strange episode that is part what if and part study on destiny. It doesn’t really fit in anywhere in it’s run, but it was an interesting look at what could have been.

Lucifer: Once Upon a Time

Season 3 First aired May 28 2018

Another changing history episode, this had the pairing of Decker and Lucifer not happening when it was meant to as God (voiced by Neil Gaiman) altering history so that Decker never became a cop, so she never met Dan Espinoza, who became a dirty cop and not a father, other characters took different paths and yet somehow all ended up connected again. This was how the season ended, until Netflix stepped in it was how the whole thing was to end and once again, doesn’t fit in with the more dramatic elements of the 3rd season finale. The different paths were interesting with Dr Linda being in TV and Ella Lopez being a car thief instead of a forensic specialist. With no Decker or Trixie to soften her edges Mazikeen became darker and darker and Amenadiel cut off from both his home and the people in his brother’s life. After the tense finale to the Cain storyline, we needed a palette clense, but this was a bit of an oddball.

Bones: The End in the Beginning

Season 4 First aired May 14 2009

This was a bit of a stranger one. It wasn’t the result of a change in history, nor another world as such, the framing sequence is more of a novel being read to the post surgery Seeley Booth and the dream that this reading conjures up. Here everyone is the same for the most part, but living different lives. Instead of scientists in a lab, most of the cast work in a nightclub called the Lab, run by Brennan and Booth, very much a couple in love. Here Brennan is less empirical in her attitude and Booth is a bit more fun loving and more outlandish in his dress. The interns are the barman, doorman, chef, waitress, assitant and DJ. All the cast are there, having fun in these different roles with the same names. We still have Brennan, Booth, Angela, Hodgins et al, but they are all different and often happier and yet still involved in a murder mystery. Out of all of these alternate looks, I find this one to be the better episode and I can watch it again and again.

Well that’s me for now ttfn internet people.

Posted in TV Stuff

5 Format busting episodes of TV

One of the benefits of television is it’s familiarity. It’s a comfy blanket of pop culture. It’s rarely too daring and most of our favourite shows have very set in stone formulae. This is part of the appeal, knowing what you are getting in a way that films and any print media rarely have the need to. You put on an episode of a Law and Order show, you know you are getting a by the numbers procedural that will be very one and done. You watch something like Hannibal, you know that it’ll be tense, a bit macabre and simply a chapter in a larger tale. Both of those things are good things and both have their place. Every now and again, there’ll be an episode of a show that’ll try and do something a little bit different.

The Obvious Choice – Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Once more with Feeling

Season 6: Episode 11, first airing Nov 6 2001.

From the less than spectacular 6th season, this was the musical episode. The plot, such as it was, revolved around and demon bringing a dancing madness to Sunnydale, characters would burst into song, fully aware of how unreal and staged it seems. Most of the cast were given songs that revealed plot points and secrets and despite the idea of a musical episode being both bizarre and out of place, the episode fits rather nicely both as part of the overall arc of Buffy learning to cope after being brough back from paradise as well as standing alone enough to be watched as a singular episode.

Bones: The 200th in the 10th

Season 10: Episode 10, first airing Dec 14 2014

From a season where the show was firing on all cylinders in their usual mode of forensic-led murder mysteries, the 200th episode took a different tactic, putting the episode out as if it was a 1950’s film noir, with detectives, romantic jewel thieves and heavy sexism. The screwball comedy pairing of Boreanaz and Deschanel was well honed by this point and could move their dynamic to different jobs and eras. There was nothing ground breaking about this, but there was a sense of fun to it. It felt very much like a movie from that era, but with dialogue and production values of a more modern time. Like the last choice, this could be watched as either part of the 10th season as a welcome break, or just as a nice one off.

Smallville: Noir

Season 6: Episode 20, first airing May 3 2007

Unlike the first 2 on this list, this was only partly the out of format episode and very much part of the larger season’s arc, but this was very much it’s own thing. Less the romantic cat and mouse of Bones’ noirish story, this was a lot more Raymond Chandler, it had femme fatales, plucky sidekicks, rat-at-at dialogue and something of a downbeat ending, but this felt like a noir story, jammed into the heart of the modern day retelling of Superman’s origin. Everyone was recast in new roles, but with the same names, with Jimmy Olsen a reporter with his ear to the street, Lex Luthor as a mob-boss, Lois was a lounge singer, Chloe the secretary who longed for Jimmy and urged him to succeed. Even Clark Kent was now a hard boiled detective, working undercover as the newspaper’s least imposing staff member. This was 25 mins out of a 40 minute show, but was very watchable and was a highpoint in what was quickly becoming a less than great season.

Doctor Who: Blink

Season 3, episode 10, first airing June 7 2007

I will freely admit this is a bit of a cheat. This episode didn’t shift genres or anything so bold and exciting, but it was a change in that the central character, the Doctor, didn’t actually feature as the main character, nor did the companion who was often the point of view character. The main character here was somone called Sally Sparrow, who just sort of fell into inexplicible and dangerous events involving creatures known as the Weeping Angels. This was tense and atmospheric and without the familiarity of the Doctor, you genuinely didn’t know who was going to make it out of this. Sally was the hero of this story and also the person who in a time-travel paradox sort of war set the story up. The Angels become over-used after this, but their first outing was an excellent example of what the show could be, now given the production values and budget that it had always yearned for. It is an episode that you could show to anyone who was on the fence with Doctor Who and at that point was David Tennant’s most bizarre performance as the Time Lord.

Farscape: Scratch n’Sniff

Season 3: Episode 13 first airing July 20 2001

It was hard to choose between this episode and the episode 16’s Revenging Angel and there were many bizarre shifts in that season. But they all seemed to have a linear coherence to them, it was just everything else that was bizarre. This episode was one that seemed to bounce from scene to scene with little to no sense. The episode was writting and filmed in a more traditional way, but found it’s bizarre form in the editing suite. The story is that D’Argo and John have been arguing more and more and so are sent off the ship to a nearby resort planet. Things go wrong on a number of levels and the pair try to convice the ship’s pilot to let them back on board. Being unreliable narrators, the pair fail to convince, but with cross-dressing, drugs, thieves and random weirdness being part of their lives generally, there’s not reason to believe that this wasn’t exactly what happened. It was played more for laughs than usual, one scene showing D’Argo and John waking up in a shop window wearing stockings and suspenders, but no actual trousers. This was also this season’s appearance of lead actor Ben Browder’s real life wife Francesca Bueller who showed up as the suprising cockney for an alien Raxil.

TV is often comforting in it’s familiarity, but every now and again it’s nice to see something a little bit different in there too.

Ttfn internet people.

Posted in TV Stuff

Lucky Number 7 part 4

 

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Cast:

Kerr Avon –  Paul Darrow

Vila Restal–  Michael Keating

Soolin  –  Glynis Barber

Del Tarrant  –  Steven Pacey

Dayna Mellanby  –  Josette Simon

Zen/ Orac – Peter Tuddenham

Servalan – Jacqueline Pearce

If you expected season 4 to either start or end happily has clearly no idea what this show was. The season started with the crew of the destroyed Liberator having being shipwrecked on Terminal. Their only way off was a booby trapped shuttle, the destruction of which destroyed the only shelter on Terminal, costing the life of Cally, who was killed off-screen. The crew are then rescued by a man called Dorien and his ship the Scorpio, controlled by the computer Slave. He brings them aboard and flies him to his home base on the planet Xenon. There they meet Soolin, a  gun for hire working with Dorien, or maybe more. It’s a trap of course and Dorien ends up being more of a Dorien Gray sort of character. The team defeat him and get a base, a ship and with Soolin, a new member of the team. We also get new guns, new teleporter effects, new opening credits and a little bit more of status quo than the aimless wandering of the 3rd season.

The opening titles and production design tell us we’re very much in the 1980s, fitting since the first episode aired on September 28 1981. The team is now very much Avon’s group, with it being a looser group of people bound by experience and mutual interests. They are brigands for sure with heists and jewellery robberies as much the plot as anything rebellious. There’s a bit more focus on character, with Avon becoming more amoral and pragmatic, whilst the others are less trusting of him. The conflicts feel less forced and their more desperate actions making more sense. With Scorpio being less of a warship and more a high speed get away car, there’s less emphasis on space battles and more on running and the dangers of going up against warships and this increases the sense of danger to the cast, all but two of the original 7 having already being killed or driven off. As this band’s fortunes wane, Servalan crops up under a pseudonym to rebuild her powerbase as the Federation is once more expanding. This resurgence galvanises the team to get serious about dealing with them, the back half of the season being about getting resources and allies in order to oppose the Federation once more. This sort of gets full circle, with Avon taking Blake’s role, very much aware that no one is going to rally around him. When that all turns to chaos and disaster Avon turns to the one person he knows could lead this Rebel Alliance, Roj Blake. Blake has been busy, building an army of criminals, gunfighters and malcontents under the pretence of being a bounty hunter. He’s getting ready for his return just as Avon turns up, once again without a ship and his crew scattered. He believes Blake has betrayed him, but it’s Blake that’s been betrayed and the final episode of the season and the series as a whole ends in a shoot out. Well it was never going to be a happy ending was it?

With the pacing being 70’s and the effects being low budget 80’s the cast really had to do all of the heavy lifting. Paul Darrow is having a ball as Avon, all sarcastic Flash Gordon and Michael Keating is solid as the cowardly Vila, who is really only with Avon for safety, but even he as a bit of a hero moment in the last episode, not that it does him any good. Stephen Pacey’s Tarrant is only there as a necessary foil for Avon and we don’t really get to know Soolin too well, we are told she’s a gunfighter, but there’s little to show that at all. The real loser of the season is Josette Simon, who’s role as Dayna seem reduced to damsel in distress one episode and blank cardboard cut out the next. I could say that the female characters don’t do well in this season, were it not for Jacqueline Pearce taking chunks out of the scenery as the gloriously over the top Servalan. Much like the Scorpio’s crew, she has to come back from the abyss to rebuild her life and she does so with a large amount of gusto, owning the screen with the full knowledge of what kind of show she’s in, but having as much fun as Darrow in their scenes. Apart from the last episode, it’s very much Avon vs Servalan and the show works better when the pair of them are on screen.

Overall, I enjoyed this season more than 3 and feel that the show was just getting to grips with what it wanted to be just as it was coming to an end, the dour endings, the hopelessness of the battle against a vast enemy and the underdog natures of the good guys (we were never going to call them heroes, were we?) all made this something very different to what came before and it’s tone and scope wouldn’t have anything similar to it on screen for decades.

It was an interesting watch and I am glad I got to do it. I don’t know that I would ever recommend it to everyone, but if you were a fan of 70’s/80’s Doctor Who, you could do worse.

Once again, thanks to the host of the Palace of Glittering Delights  podcast for getting me onto this program and please check his show out, it’s funny, honest and full of fun stuff that you may have forgotten about, or are glad that someone else remembers.

 

Ta Ta for Now internet people, work is a’calling and apparently they’re expecting me to earn my wages today.

Posted in TV Stuff

Lucky Number 7: Part 3

Part 1 here

Part 2 here

Cast:

Kerr Avon –  Paul Darrow

Vila Restal–  Michael Keating

Cally  –  Jan Chappel

Del Tarrant  –  Steven Pacey

Dayna Mellanby  –  Josette Simon

Zen/ Orac – Peter Tuddenham

Servalan – Jacqueline Pearce

Airing 7 January 1980 Aftermath kicked off season 3, a season that took the show in a very different direction. Gone from the series were Gareth Thomas, Sally Knyvette, David Jackson and Brian Crouch, each written out or killed off. Thomas and Knyvette were the leads of the show and their decision to leave left the show without much of the show’s cast and raison detre. This season the focus shifted to Kerr Avon who took the lead protagonist role. Without Travis, the villain of the piece was former Supreme Commander and presently Federation President Servalan.

The series takes place in the aftermath of a galactic war, started at the end of season 2. The Federation is in pieces, the attacking aliens defeated and the crew of the Liberator is scattered. Avon, Cally, Villa and Orac return and are joined by naive, but lethal Dayna and the cocky space-pirate Tarrant. This new crew lacks the ongoing goals of the old one, some wanting revenge on Servalan, others just wanting some profit out of it all.

There’s a greater sense of fun to this series as well as an attempt to tell stories that aren’t Blake’s war on the Federation. Free from Blake’s shadow Avon becomes more of a leader, his loyalty to his team based on their skills rather than sentiment. His relationship with Servalan simmers with sexual tension and mutual admiration. These are both ambitious survivors who will stop at nothing to get what they want. Darrow and Pierce own their roles and play them with an understated charm, which swings wildly to scenery chewing quite easily. Dayna lacks consistent characterisation and Tarrant tries the whole season to take the ship and crew from Avon who has no time for the games and lets him be in charge, up until it’s time for him not to be. It’s interesting, but graes on you after a while. As well as feeling different, the show looks very different, the main  Liberator set is the same, but the costumes vary episode by episode with varying degrees of success. The other returning cast members are at home with the roles, with Villa being exactly as he always was, a bit of a coward and the voice of regular folk in this show, but Cally adds a cynical resignation to her character, someone who has lost time and time again and doesn’t know how many more battles she has left in her, or even what she is fighting for.

 

It was an uneven season, with many lows and highs. It suffered due to the loss of Blake from Blake’s 7, but honestly not as much as it could have. His absence became a character as much as he had been for the last season and the difference was more than made up by giving Paul Darrow’s Avon more screen time. After building the team for a season it all seemed to come apart right at the end with Avon keeping the team in the dark, the Liberator and it’s AI Zen lost and the team stranded after learning after a year of wondering that Blake is indeed dead. All hope seems lost, but this was in keeping with how the series has been up to that point.

Before I watched the series, I was advised that season 2 was the peak, but I will be honest I found this season more enjoyable. It had a few twists, such as Cally being saved on a medical ship at the start of the season, only to find Servalan on it and the later ending up on a planet that used strangers as organ-banks for the rich. There were fun moments with Villa getting the girl, well for a little while. The villains were quite villainous, with Servalan wiping out the population of Cally’s homeworld in her quest to rebuild and expand the Terran Federation. Or Colin Baker showing up as a mad space-pirate who ended up blowing himself to pieces. There’s fun and a silliness to it. It remains not a good show, but being three quarters done, am invested and want to see how it all goes badly wrong for this plucky band of fairly reluctant rebels. I will go back for season 4 because without Gan, without Blake, without Jenna, without Zen and without the Liberator, I want to know what happens next and it’s always good when a show makes you feel that way.